Commercialization masks meaning of some holidays

By: Chris Zimmer – Columnist, Junior

It’s that magical time of the year again when we put up fake pine trees, hang lights on our roofs and consume an immense amount of eggnog — Christmas season is in full swing.

While Advent started Sunday, Nov. 30 this year, the American tradition of what I call “capitalist Christmas” started before Halloween with advertisements regarding this season’s best toys and deals.

The two holiday traditions are conflicting and say a lot about our society.

The National Retail Federation, the United States’ largest retail trade group is estimated to account for $617 billion in sales in  November and December.

According to a Gallup Poll, 25 percent of Americans are planning to spend $1,000 or more on holiday gifts, and the average (including zero) is $720.

This is considered OK given our country is still recovering from the infamous “recession of 2008.” In the two years prior to that, $800 was the average Christmas gift budget.

Despite an international economic crisis, we’re still willing to drop big bucks on toys that’ll break, video games that’ll be lame, and presents that’ll be forgotten.

All for what?

A few home videos of our kids’ faces seeing what Santa Claus brought overnight?

In the classic movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” we witness that all the Whos down in Whoville still have the holiday joy despite being robbed of their gifts. Toward the end of the film the narrator says, “Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.”

While this is a great way to teach your kids not to be so upset about not getting their favorite toy for Christmas, it’s a contradiction to American behavior.

If there was no Santa Claus myth there’d be no capitalist Christmas as we know it, and the joy and memories attached to the holiday would cease to exist.

I’m not proposing we end this cultural tradition of buying, giving and receiving gifts to and from friends and family, but we need to rethink the way we do it.

For one, we need to examine the employees of Christmas.

In 2008, there were 264,000 holiday or seasonal jobs.

In 2014, an expected 800,000 people will be employed because of this holiday.

Most of these are temporary, minimum wage jobs that demand long hours and possible work shifts on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, and once it’s all over they go back to being unemployed. What a drag.

Number two, stop spending as much.

While the 800,000 “Christmas workers” are only employed to meet the $617 billion demand of retail products, we have to reconsider why we’re actually buying-material items that won’t last. Yes, a new iPhone will last longer than a Barbie, and clothes will go out of style.

Say for instance a middle-class family with four kids has a $200 budget.

Instead of buying “stuff” that will break, maybe we should invest that $200 in experiences that will change them. Maybe your son wants to attend his first professional sports game, or another wants to learn the piano or learn to pick up some hobby. Even better yet, you could use that $800 on a family vacation they won’t forget.

Parents need to invest in their kids, not just give them want they want.

Lastly, we need to do away with the Santa Claus myth. Yes, it’s fun, but it’s secular.

It might have been inspired by St. Nicholas, but no cartoon tells the real folklore behind the holy man.

All kids see is an obese man, who breaks into your house once a year, and eats your cookies and drinks your milk.

This would provide kids to embrace the real “reason of the season” and save the waterfall of tears after parents tell their kids they’ve constantly lied to their faces for the past seven to 10 years.

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